There are no Time Management problems…
…There are only Priority Management problems
It seems we hear people lament their latest time management problems no matter where we are. Typical fare like “I didn’t have time to…” or “I ran out of time to…” packs the airwaves with just enough conviction to get the rest of us to buy-in to their dilemma and potentially offer some level of sympathy to their plight. Those that know me well will actually refrain from saying these statements or will catch themselves mid-stream, because they know I will challenge them to restate the truth, “I did not make time to…” The issue here is not about having time because everyone has the same 24 hours to invest, spend, waste or otherwise use to their choosing. And therein lies the real issue; choosing what to do with our time!
How does a leader make these choices and still keep up with the demands of the 21st Century workplace and family commitments? The secret lies in the ability to prioritize the 24 hours everyone is given every single day and execute the most important commitments in the order they need to be addressed. But let’s begin with understanding a few basics about prioritization in order to begin investing time more wisely:
Sustainable leadership requires effective prioritization to stay abreast of the fluidity of the 21st Century workplace. Having a process that is exercised and communicated regularly can spell the difference between being the leader everyone follows or the leader no one knows where they are going.
How well is your prioritization process working and how do you know?
- Prioritization means something will not get done today ~ Prioritization, by definition, means saying yes to important tasks and goals. This further suggests that it is also saying no to less important tasks and goals. No is an acceptable answer in business when it is the correct answer for the situation. The secret is in how it is communicated in a way that explains where and why the priorities are set up the way they are!
- Prioritization means there can only be one priority ~ The expression, “If you have ten priorities, then you have no priorities” reflects the trap many leaders get caught in; too many priorities. The long list of seemingly important priorities becomes daunting because leaders either don't take the time to prioritize or don’t know how to begin prioritizing or both. Developing a prioritization process can be as simple as a process of elimination or a more sophisticated team brainstorming discussion. Either way, every successful leader must have a process to determine and effectively communicate priorities to their followers!
- Prioritization is a function of goal-planning ~ When leaders tell me they struggle with time management the first question I ask them is to describe their goal planning process to me. As you might imagine, I get quite a variety of answers varying from “I have no goals.” to “I don't bother with goals because they keep changing anyway.” It is the plight of many a leader who succumbs to the supplier chirping the loudest, the customer complaining the loudest or, worst yet, the leader’s own health screaming for the leader to make him/herself the priority (see Jan 2016 newsletter). Goals executed effectively create prioritization for the leader to best understand where to invest their time.